The Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association (ISAWWA) presented the Young Professional (YP) Excellence Award to Andrew Dow of Donohue & Associates. The award recognizes the outstanding YP of each year based on contributions to the water industry and for exceptional service and achievements beyond one’s years. Andrew is a water/wastewater process engineer located in Donohue’s Chicago office.
We asked Andrew to provide some insights regarding his experiences as a young professional in the water/wastewater industry.
Q: Andrew, Congratulations on receiving this prestigious award! How did you get involved with ISAWWA and why did you join the organization?
Andrew: I got involved with ISAWWA within a few months of starting with Donohue. I was new to Illinois and wanted to become more familiar with both local and nation-wide topics in the water/wastewater industry. I also knew that being active in professional organizations would be a great way to get to know other industry professionals in the area. Because of an interest in public communication about water industry issues, I started out by participating in monthly Outreach Committee calls. I was fortunate to join a welcoming and enthusiastic team of ISAWWA staff and volunteer professionals who supported me in taking an active role in the Committee activities from early on.
Q: Obviously, you go above and beyond being “just a member”. In what ways have you participated in the organization?
Andrew: In ISAWWA I’ve participated in Young Professionals Committee meetings and events and, as I was just mentioning, I’ve been particularly active as a member of the Outreach Committee. A lot of my participation in the Outreach Committee has been geared toward expanding access to educational, training, and career opportunities in the water industry. That has included activities like reviewing applications for ISAWWA’s Safe Water Scholarship program and leading a sub-committee focused on promoting and expanding access to utility internships. As part of the latter initiative, I have collaborated with colleagues in the organization to develop new internship-focused informational materials for utilities and to facilitate conference calls with utilities who are seeking guidance on establishing new internship offerings, such as operations-focused programs for high school seniors. Succession planning is a big deal right now for a lot of utilities. It’s estimated that a large percentage of the current industry workforce will retire in the next decade, so these programs can play a valuable role in sustaining a strong workforce while introducing youth to potentially career-launching opportunities. I’ve also enjoyed giving technical presentations and leading panel discussions or tabling events at WATERCON, the organization’s annual conference, over the past several years.
Q: What do you see as the biggest benefits of actively participating in ISAWWA?
Andrew: One of the main benefits of participating in an organization like ISAWWA is the opportunity to learn from other professionals as you work with them on volunteer activities. You get exposure to perspectives of people in other career paths and from outside your organization and learn from how they approach different goals or situations. It also very quickly expands your network within the organization, allowing you to build meaningful connections with new and existing colleagues through shared experiences and collaboration. Another benefit is skill development. Participation can involve valuable project management and team leadership experience outside of your normal technical project work.
Q: What advice do you have to other YPs just starting out in the water profession?
Andrew: Well, on one hand, I would encourage anyone entering the profession or industry to take advantage of opportunities to work with and learn from people across a variety of organizations and backgrounds. I would also encourage new YPs to look for opportunities to take initiative in providing value and structure wherever they can. A mentor used to say that the key to being successful is doing more than what’s expected. At the same time, I would also say that it’s important to be patient in your pursuit of professional development and to maintain a balance of priorities in your personal and professional life, which can mean establishing limits on the additional responsibilities you take on and the opportunities you pursue. Preserving time to spend with family and friends and on your health and hobbies is key to sustaining productivity and having fun while working in this important and busy industry.
Q: How have you grown as a young professional at Donohue?
Andrew: As a young professional at Donohue, I’ve had exposure to such a variety of projects – most of which present unique challenges, new information to learn, and different nuances to master, while drawing on a combination of skills to complete. From that, I would say I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience in structuring work for myself and for project team members. These types of time management, problem solving, and technical leadership skills are a key part of my growth as a consulting engineer. I’ve also had the opportunity to give numerous technical presentations at various industry conferences, which is a skill set I enjoy using and developing.